Unpublished Scenes of Malintzin's life, 2021/2022

The project "Unpublished Scenes from Malintzin´s life" investigates the constructions of individual, cultural and political memory, based on an emblematic figure of the conquest of Mexico, which over time acquired, as a political symbol of various orientations, almost mythical features: Malintzin, also known as La Malinche or Doña Marina. While the recognition of this cultural character preserves its realm of existence in the collective memory through oral expression, the verified historical facts are quite few.  

Guadalupe and Tonantzin, the pet hens. Archive Casachalma 

 File No. 77_20140827-134500:655491”, 2021 

oil on canvas and transparent fiber, 90 x 70 cm


Here, once you have looked behind the "curtain" and through the transparent blacks, Malinche is posing with her pets, two hens, which she named Guadalupe and Tonantzin. Chickens did not come to Mexico until the Spaniards arrived, so the scene must have taken place after 1519 at the earliest, but probably a little later, because Marina must have known quite a bit about Christianity by that time to realize that Guadalupe, as the Mother of God, was the Christian equivalent of Tonantzin (Nahuatl: "mother of the gods"). Later, the Spaniards will take up Malinche's idea and make it politically useful: on the hill where Tonantzin's temple stands, they will build the first church to the Virgin of Guadalupe, which is still the most important place of pilgrimage in Mexico. 


“The first tongue II (Jerónimo de Aguilar, first interpreter of Herán Cortés)", Archive Casachalma File No.  77_20140827-134500:220645 , 2021, oil on canvas and transparent fiber, 54 x 64 x 8 cm 


The first tongue III (Jerónimo de Aguilar, first interpreter of Herán Cortés)", Archive Casachalma, File No. 77_20140827-134500:220635. 2021, oil on canvas and transparent fiber, 94 x 74 x 8 cm


The first tongue I (Jerónimo de Aguilar, first interpreter of Herán Cortés). Archive Casachalma File No. 77_20140827-134500:220642”, 2021, oil on canvas and transparent fiber, 90 x 70 cm

Jerónimo de Aguilar has been shipwrecked in 1511 and fallen into Mayan captivity, where he is still when Cortés sets out to find a translator. When Cortés knows about him, he writes to him that he is sending him a ship and soldiers and is willing to ransom him from captivity if he joins him as a translator. Jerónimo de Aguilar agrees, in contrast to Gonzalo Guerrero, the second castaway, who has since made his home among the Maya, has a wife and three children, and wears perforations on his body and tattoos, according to Díaz del Castillo (2014, p. 100). The chronicler does not write that Aguilar did not have tattoos, perhaps he did not see them, unlike Malintzin, who will spend a lot of time with him, because both have to translate communally: First Malintzin from Nahuatl into Maya, then Aguilar from Maya into Spanish and vice versa, until Malintzin is also proficient in Spanish. Aguilar becomes increasingly superfluous, especially since he, the "First tongue of Cortés", can apparently only translate makeshift, while Malintzin, not only has a command of the languages, but also a profound knowledge of the customs and practices on both sides. More than translating, Malintzin interprets and communicates cross-culturally. In contrast, Aguilar remains trapped in his own culture.


“Seductora", Archive Casachalma, 2021, oil on canvas and transparent fiber, 50 x 60 cm


“The other wife, Archive Casachalma File No. 77_20140827-134500:350931” , 2021, oil on canvas and transparent fiber, 90 x 70 cm

There is no doubt among scholars that Malintzin was beyond measure valuable to Cortés because of these facts. Nor is there any doubt that the two had a relationship (after Portocarrero was sent to Spain and died there) that not only produced the aforementioned son Martín, but was also so close that the indigenous people themselves addressed Cortés as Malintzin. Nevertheless, they never married. Presumably, Malintzin did not want to share the fate of Cortés' first wife, Catalina Suárez Marcaida, who did not wake up the next morning after a marital dispute. However, “The other wife” (oil on canvas an transparent synthetic fibre, 2021, 90 x 70 cm), Juana Ramírez de Arellano y Zúñiga, with whom Cortés settled in my hometown of Cuernavaca, survived her husband. 


“The conqueror's camp. Archive Casachalma File No. 77_20140827-134500:5886”, 2021, oil on canvas and transparent fiber, Diptych, 200 x 370  cm

The blouse Malinche wears on the journey to the Hibueras is the one she was wearing when she first met Hernán Cortés. That was shortly after the Battle of Centla, Tabasco, in 1519, when Hernán Cortés' soldiers faced thousands of indigenous warriors. The victory seemed miraculous to them, helped in no small part by the “cavalry” that took the Indians by surprise. Horses and riders were unknown to them. After the battle, the defeated presented gifts to the victors, including 20 women. Malintzin was one of them and now, just a few days after the battle, she walks around somewhat lost in the "Camp of the Conquerors", suddenly thrown into another world. To the right are the horses that brought victory, and in the background a rider: perhaps Cortés himself, or perhaps the rider in whom Bernardino Vázquez de Tapia claims to have recognized the miraculously appeared St. Jacob. On the left in the foreground lies tired one of the dogs that the Spaniards had brought and trained to kill. 


“The unwanted trip. Archive Casachalma File No. 77_20140827-134500:649682”, 2021, oil on canvas and transparent fiber, 200 x 180 cm

On October 12, 1524, Malinche is waiting in Coyoacán for Cortés to give the order to leave. She has put on a rather simple embroidered blouse of expensive cotton, along with wrap-around pants to be as comfortable as possible on the long walk to the Hibueras (in Honduras). She doesn't really want to leave, because this "Unwanted Journey" means above all leaving her little son Martín, whom she has had to wean hastily, alone for many months. In fact, it will be two years; two years in which she will once again act as interpreter, because Cortés needs her on his journey to the Hibueras, where he wants to put down an uprising by Cristóbal de Olid. During this time she will marry Juan Jaramillo and Cuauhtémoc will die.